THAILAND: YouTube disappears from Thai Internet

Government blocks entire website after Google refuses to take down satirical clip of King

Bangkok Post
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Internet users reported on Wednesday that Thai authorities had blocked the popular website YouTube, over an insulting video of His Majesty the King.

Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom, the minister of information and communication technology, told the Reuters news agency he personally ordered a block of the entire site from Thailand after the ministry's attempts to block the offending page last week failed.

"Since Google (which owns YouTube) has rejected our repeated requests to withdraw the clip, we can't help blocking the entire site in Thailand," said Mr Sitthichai. "When they decide to withdraw the clip, we will withdraw the ban," he said.

The site was unavailable to all customer of Thai Internet providers by Wednesday evening. The ban took several hours to take hold, with many users able to access the site at midday, while others said they could not reach it.

An Internet engineer in Bangkok, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the block appeared to be at the main Thailand gateway maintained by CAT Telecom, which claims to have a monopoly on all international Internet traffic.

"All traffic to the CAT Internet providers seems to be blocked at CAT's router," said the engineer. "It doesn't help that they only have two (customers) to begin with." Thailand has two major high-speed Internet providers.

Most users of one of the two major high-speed Internet services in Thailand were able to reach YouTube as usual as of noon on Wednesday, several hours after other users reported being blocked. By evening, all subscribers of Thai Internet providers were blocked from all of YouTube.

YouTube has many controversial videos concerning Thai politics, but a user uploaded a serious video-slide show satire against His Majesty last Sunday.

The clip, seen more than 16,000 times, was posted by someone using the screen name "paddidda." His post was criticised or rudely attacked by most of the 532 comments up to last night about the video.

Mr Sitthichai said YouTube had told Thai officials it did not find the clip offensive and declined their request to remove it.

The minister had promised early this week to block websites he or his staff considered to be pornographic, offensive to the monarchy or a danger to national security.

Blocking YouTube, which has hundreds of thousands of videos, will be highly controversial, even if offensive clips remain on the site. It already has been criticised as throwing the baby out with the dirty dishwater.

In a similar case last month, many Internet users in Thailand claimed they could not reach YouTube because of a block -- but others had no problem reaching the site.

As Post Database writer Don Sambandaraksa wrote about the last YouTube partial outage in his column in today's newspaper:

"[W]hen something as blatant as censoring YouTube occurred, nobody seems to be responsible for it, or for finding out who did it. The Ministry of ICT (MICT) said it was not theGovir fault while the TOT and CAT also denied responsibility."